There is already a lot of construction around the new Braves Stadium and in the coming months, you can expect even more.
On Tuesday, the Cobb County Commission approved two pedestrian bridge projects to help get fans safely to the game.
With unanimous votes and little discussion, the Board agreed to spend $23 million to widen Windy Ridge Parkway, creating a pedestrian plaza across I-75, and to build a new bridge connecting the Galleria parking deck with the stadium action.
But Commissioner Bob Ott argued that with new trails and five residential areas also being built in the area, the projects would benefit more than baseball fans.
“I think it’s a little bit of a mischaracterization just to call it a Braves bridge. I think it’s part of an overall plan to make the entire area more pedestrian friendly,” said Ott during the meeting.
The new bridge over I-285 will be built by Northwest Express Roadbuilders, the same company building the I-75/575 toll road through Cobb County.
The 32-foot wide project is billed as a multi-use bridge because it will include a trail for pedestrians and bikes with accommodations for a future transit lane. The full bridge project won't be done until Aug. 31, 2017, but plans call for the pedestrian component of the bridge will be operational by Braves Opening Day in April 2017.
Engineering for the Multi-Use Bridge will be primarily funded by Federal Transit Administration grants and the 2011 SPLOST TIP, as well as contributions by the Cumberland Community Improvement District.
Chairman Lee says none of the funds for either bridge are coming from the County’s general fund.
“Most of our transportation projects are funded through SPLOST unless we can get partners to contribute, like you have here. It’s actually saving Cobb taxpayers money the way we’re putting this deal together,” said Lee.
The cost to build the I-285 bridge has come into question. A similar pedestrian bridge was built across GA 400 at a reported cost of $32 million, leading some to wonder how Cobb planned to do it for so much less.
The President of the Buckhead Community Improvement District, which helped pay for that project, said the actual construction costs were about $10 million, the same as the Cobb project. Jim Durrett said MARTA’s figure of $32 million included decades of study, discussion and public meetings and included total costs, not just construction.
While that may give Cobb taxpayers some piece of mind, there are two costs still looming – even as the project plows forward. The parking deck that will connect to the I-285 bridge needs to be upgraded. The County says it won’t know how much that will cost or how much taxpayers might be on the hook to pay for it, until the Galleria decides whether to build a hotel. They say that decision could take years.
There is also land that must still be purchased. When asked how much that was expected to cost, a spokesperson responded in writing, “The right of way is still in negotiations so we can't release any figures.” The county could not comment on whether there was a maximum price the County would pay, but confirmed SPLOST money would be used for those land purchases.
There's still no word on how Cobb County will pay for the garage upgrades.